Number of cell phone subscribers to hit 4 billion this year, UN says

Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the ITU

25 September 2008 – The number of mobile cellular subscribers worldwide will reach the 4 billion mark by the end of 2008, the head of the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) announced today.

The number of subscribers has surged nearly 25 per cent annually for the past eight years. Mobile penetration stood at only 12 per cent in 2000, growing to reach over 60 per cent by the end of 2008.

“The fact that 4 billion subscribers have been registered worldwide indicates that it is technically feasible to connect the world to the benefits of ICT [information and communication technology] and that it is a visible business opportunity,” ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré said in New York at a high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets agreed upon by world leaders in 2000.

“Clearly, ICTs have the potential to act as catalysts to achieve the 2015 targets of the MDGs,” he added.

The ITU emphasized the need to carefully interpret data. A 61 per cent penetration rate does not mean in reality that every other person in the world is using a mobile phone; rather, the statistics reflect the number of subscriptions, not people. Double counting could occur if people have multiple cellular subscriptions, while some could be sharing their phone with others.

The agency also cautioned that penetration rates vary by region and even within countries.

Rapidly developing economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China are driving the growth in the number of cellular subscribers, with these nations alone accounting for over 1.3 billion of them by the end of 2008.


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